Is there ever such a thing as “happy meat”? Review of “The Ultimate Betrayal”.
In Hope Bohanec’s new book, darkly entitled “The Ultimate Betrayal”, she works to explore some of the terribly common misconceptions that plague the concept of a more “humane” agriculture. If anyone has comforted themselves with the presumed knowledge that they have purchased a more “kind” cut of meat or eggs from “happy” chickens, her work causes that assumption to quickly dissipate. Marketing executives within the animal agriculture industry are very sensitive to the fact that many consumers are concerned about the well-being of animals (to a certain degree, at least), and are willing to pay the increased price for a piece of animal that has a comforting label on it, such as “free range”, “grass-fed”, or “humane”. Bohanec likewise makes the astute observation that many consumers are often far too eager to fully trust the label on the eggs of the piece of animal, and do not usually dig deeper into the matter themselves; she has a number of theories as to why this is, but I’ll let you read the book to discover for yourself.
Bohanec sets the scene for the overall theme of the book by showing her readers the vast amounts of scientific research detailing the consciousness of animals, their emotional lives, and their own systems of morality. As an audience, we begin to understand that famous quote that runs roughly along the lines of “Animals are like us in the ways that truly matter”. Even the most committed omnivore cannot help but be deeply moved by the facts concerning these beautiful creatures and the elemental emotions we share with them.
Bohanec writes with a sincere urgency, and it rings true as she meticulously and painfully details the facts about “humane” slaughter. In all actuality, the animals raised on somewhat smaller farms all end up in the same factory-farm slaughterhouses as their conventional counterparts, along with all the filth, disease, and suffering that accompanies these endeavors. Bohanec provides, thankfully, brief moments of encouragement in highlighting the wonderful experience of several farm animals that have been rescued from a short life of painful suffering and eventual death; creatures such as Elsa the cow and Carmen the sheep show us what their species looks like in a natural, health setting, and its a powerful reminder of what vegans work towards on a daily basis.
Bohanec spends a good amount of time on the issue of world hunger and feeding the growing global population, soundly debunking the notion that we can adequately deal with these growing crises with the production and consumption of pasture-raised animals. She makes mention that the United Nations committee on Food and Agriculture have repeatedly created empirical reports that find animal agriculture to the the primary culprit in the creation of environmental pollution and global warming. She notes that grassfed beef, contrary to popular belief, produces more CO2 than conventional animal production, and using pasture-raised livestock requires more water, more land, and more overall energy use. Bohanec also makes mention of that sobering fact that animal agriculture uses 80% of the earth’s arable land. With the earth’s population increasing, and a global food shortage looking increasingly likely, we can no longer allow ourselves the illusion of believing that we can fight world hunger as well as raising animals for the sole purpose of consumption.
This text is well worth a thorough reading, for both the seasoned vegan and the well-heeled individual who is willing to pay $14 a pound for local, pasture-raised, so called “happy” meat. It’s available on Amazon for $3.03 for Kindle, and $17.96 in paperback. I could not more highly recommend it, for we only have one planet, and its not too late to fix the mess we’ve created, by immediately switching to a plant-based diet and thereby preserving a healthy environment for our future generations.